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THE MAGIC BULLET

The German Jewish physician and scientist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) was the precursor of staining techniques for tissues, worked on the development of a anti-serum to combat diphtheria and his laboratory was responsible for the first treatment available for syphilis, arsphenamine. He was the first to coin the term “chemotherapy”, and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908 for his contributions to immunology.

Dr Ehrlich searched for a chemical that could not only  stain but also attach itself to  a germ and kill it, without causing harm to the patient’s body. He called them “magic bullets”, these chemicals injected in the body to fight diseases. After 606 tries, he finds a magic bullet to combat syphilis, arsphenamine (commercialized as Salvarsan) and calls this substance 606. However this discovery seems to be short-lived as 38 patients die of arsenic poisoning contained in the substance. Later his laboratory developed a more soluble and diluted formula, with less severe side effects. The arsenic compounds were  substituted by penicillin for the treatment of syphilis in the 1940s.

Ehrlich’s history is narrated along “Dr Ehrlich’s magic bullet”, a 1940 autobiographical film directed by William Dieterle. His discovery of staining techniques and the development of the serum to combat diphtheria, working with his colleague Emil von Behring, are remarkable – and indeed saves the lives of many children during the epidemics of the disease. Later, while working with good results with Sahachiro Hata on 606 for syphilis, Ehrlich (Edward G. Robinson) is forced by medical practitioners to release the drug for commercial use. He hesitates from a scientific point of view, but concedes in light of  the urgency of treatment. The drug is produced in large scale in Europe, and Ehrlich ends  up being judged by 38 deaths caused by 606. He is defended in court by his colleague Emil von Behring, who claims that despite these deaths, 606 was a success in many cases against a disease that was considered incurable until then.

Near his death, the world is on the verge of a war, and Ehrlich gives a speech to his trainees and collaborators in his bed:

“606 works, we know. The magic bullet will cure thousands. The principle upon which it works will serve against other diseases, many others, I think. But there can be no final victory against diseases of the body unless diseases of the soul are also overcome. They feed upon each other, diseases of the body, diseases of the soul. In days to come, there will be epidemics of greed, hate, ignorance. We must fight them in life as we fought syphilis in the laboratory. Fight. Fight. You must never stop fighting.” (*)

Virna Teixeira

(*) Peter E. Dans. Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah (Medi-press: Bloomington, Illinois, 2000).

AR

We do not know how to renounce anything, Freud has once observed. This type of relation to the object indicates an inability to mourn.

The addict is a non-renouncer par excellence (one think of the way Goethe mastered renunciation) ; yet, however haunted or hounded, the addict nonetheless establishes a partial separation from an invading presence.

***

Discipline and addiction. Practice your scales. Repetitions. Bach on coffee. Berlioz on hallucinogen (but also on coffee and cigars): The Witches’ Sabbath, a concoction of Faust and the opium dreams Berlioz read in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Mussorgky’s wine, Stravinsky’s cigarettes.

***

Crisis in immanence. Drugs, it turn out, are not so much about seeking an exterior, transcendental dimension – a fourth or fifth dimension – rather, they explore fractal interiorities. This was already hinted at by Burrough’s algebra of need.

Avital Ronell

(Crack War. Literature Addiction Mania. University of Illinois Press, 2004)

PSYCHIATRY AND WAR

This is the last week to see rare historical photographs taken at Maudsley Hospital in Southwark. The Mausdley hospital was designed in 1907 by the psychiatrist Henry Maudsley and the neuropathologist Frederick Mott. Before its official opening in 1923, the hospital was requested by the Army, and started receiving soldiers in 1916 for the treatment of shell-shock during World War One.

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Copyright Museum of the Mind

The pioneering treatment of this soldiers did not involved the traditional method used at the time for treating people with mental disorders, like sedating and/or locking patients. Instead, the treatment of these soldiers was more humanized and focused on relaxation, hot baths,  good nutrition, and physical exercises. In the hospital there was also a carpenter’s workshop and a vegetable patch. The Maudsley treated 12,400 cases of shell-shock in three years, and became famous for its innovative treatment and research of psychiatric injuries.

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Copyright Museum of the Mind

Where: The Long Gallery, Mausdley Hospital, Denmark Hill. Till 24th September (9am – 5pm)

UNDRESS YOUR MIND

Alfred Kinsey interviewing a woman, photograph by William Dellenback (c) The Kinsey Institute

 

(Alfred Kinsey interviewing a woman)

The Institute of Sexology is an unique exhibition in the UK of the “most discussed of the private acts”. It is a tribute to Magnus Hirschfeid’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlim. Hirschfield, a Jewish doctor and sexologist, founded his Institute in 1919, a place that provided a huge number of archives and library on sexuality to the public and provided educational services and medical consultations, and also housed the Museum of Sex. Magnus Hirschfield, a Jewish doctor and sexologist, was an outspoken advocate for sexual minorities, a feminist, and is considered the father of transgenderism. The Institute was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933.

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The exhibition features over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film and photography, and focus on a scientific comprehension of sexuality, from Freud and Marie Stopes to Alfred Kinsey’s questionnaires, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, analyzing how information can changes attitudes towards sex.

Please note that ‘The Institute of Sexology’ includes exhibits and live events of a sexual nature.

Wellcome Collection. 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE. Until 20th September 2015.

NIGHTMARES OF REASON

An amazing restoration work on a series of Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’ private drawings is been exhibited at Courtauld Gallery in London until 25 May.

Album D, the Witches and Old Women Album, (circa 1819), have been brought together for the first time to the public in 150 years. Visions and nightmares, superstitions and the problem of old age (represented by witches) are the themes of these drawings, executed only in brush and grey ink and in small scales – you can see quite a few people using magnifying glasses to appreciate in full their details. Although a metaphor of the historical period in Spain and the long Inquisition, they represent mainly neural glimpses of Goya’s mind: his obsession with madness, the unconscious and the human animal.

These darker visions in Goya’s work appear after a mental breakdown and catastrophic illness that left him progressively deaf and socially isolated – presumably the cause was a lead intoxication from the pigments of his paints. After Goya’s death in 1828 these drawings passed to his only son, Javier (five of his six children died as infants – infants and witches are recurrent images in the album) and his grandson and later were bought by Francisco de Madrazo, who became director of the Museo do Prado.

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He wakes up kicking.

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Nightmare – detail (1816-1820)

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Wicked woman

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EARLY EPIDEMIC IMAGE

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Paul Marès Ox Cart, Brittany, c.1857.

Apparently a picturesque scene of bucolic tranquillity, this photography also reveals two white crosses painted on the cottage wall, a warning that the place was afflicted by the outbreak of some deadly disease.

British photographer, William Henry Fox Talbot, invented the salt print, the earliest form of photographic negative. Salt and Silver is the first exhibition in Britain devoted to salter and paper prints, and includes around a hundred prints from several photographers, made between 1830 and 1860.

 

Where:  Tate Britain. Until 7 June.